My plan for Negotiated Studies 2 was use what I had researched and learnt in Negotiated Studies 1 to create a series of unique newborn composites. A bespoke service that I plan to offer future clients, creating one-off pieces of art to be hung in their homes.
The concept for the triptych was developed around the birth of a baby using minimal props to symbolise different stages of that time.
Each image took several weeks to complete, the process starting with research of props, colours & the set up. Followed by photographing the background that I planned to composite the baby into. Once that was done it was time to photograph the clients baby at their newborn shoot, all babies were photographed on a beanbag to ensure comfort, safety and the least disturbance. Using techniques recommended by Cleare Photography from her Newborn Composite Workshop, the babies are laid and surrounded by material that match the colour and textures of where they will be composited into, making the blending process easier.
The editing process varied greatly between each image, with Creation it was a lengthy process because I didn’t have the clear visual of how I wanted the final edit to look. I knew the feeling and the meaning I wanted it to have but that’s all so when it came to the edit I wasn’t happy with it and ended up doing a full re-edit to remove everything that was distracting the eye from the baby. Thus leaving the raw minimal image I had intended. With Growth & Nurture the edit was much easier because I had the end result in my head so there was no experimenting needed. Nurture was more difficult technically because the baby wasn’t as settled as I would have liked. Time was running out and I was unable to finesse his pose and the material around him, this made the edit more time-consuming.
This lengthy process of creating a series of images with a concept was a really rewarding exercise. It’s something I’ve never done before and I feel emotionally attached to the images because so much time went into each one. A totally different experience to anything I have ever done before and I learnt a lot. Not only about developing the concept, but also in the edit to get 3 images from 3 different client shoots to work together, with every detail being crucial. I am really pleased with them and feel that I achieved the brief that I set for myself and if I was to attempt this again there isn’t anything that I would change.
In contrast to that series of images I also created a ‘non-planned’ composite. ‘Falling’ was created when I was having writers block, inspired by a falling petal that landed next to me. This lead to a burst of inspiration and an image that was made and completed in one evening. There was no concept behind it, it was purely the aesthetics of the petal as it fell and landed on my white desk that brought this image to my mind. It wasn’t shot with careful planning, equipment and good lighting, I seized the moment and used what I had and the limited light that was there. The ‘7 Days 7 Composites Challenge’ was great practise for this, making the most of what I have and with a small time frame. I am excited to add this to my Negotiated Studies 2 because alongside my time-consuming triptych of three dark meaningful images I have a light and airy one that was a flash of inspiration which shows diversity in my creative process.
Shots of the actual Digital Garage event space – overall set up and close ups for social media campaigns
Shots of people interacting with the space – avoid closing up on anonymous faces
People talking with our staff members
Capture broad range of ages, gender, backgrounds to highlight diversity in our audience
Shots of guests enjoying themselves e.g laughing
Any branded decor, inc catering etc
Speakers presenting and guests asking questions
General event atmosphere (including speakers interacting with delegates)
The light was a bit tricky in the main room, I didn’t want to use flash because for one its an annoying beep when people would be listening to the person giving the talk and also it’s distracting for the people. I had people putting their hand in front of their face when they seen me with the camera in their direction so I felt like flash would be even worse.
I used ISO500 which did give a bit of grain to the images but not a distorting amount.
The Google PR team also wanted the images the same day so I only had a few hours in the afternoon to edit and get them all over to them. Normally I would have spent a little more time on the edit to refine them but I had to comply with their timeframe.
Here is a selection of the images that I sent to them:
Inspiration is like a moment of awakening, like a lightening bolt that hits you on the top of the head and then travels through to your stomach swirling around and shooting little bolts of energy and tingles through your body. Is that what drives us, is it the adrenaline and excitement when that moment strikes. You can’t even think about eating, a day can go by and you don’t even give it a thought, there is no hunger when you are flying on the adrenaline train! It can strike at any moment and anywhere and usually when you are least looking for it.
This is what happened to me, whilst sat at my desk, looking at a blank screen. Knowing I need to write, there are Blogs to write, time’s running out, not knowing what to write first…why is writing so hard, my mind is searching but avoiding what I need to be doing. As you can see my desk is all packed up because we are in the process of packing, we move house the day after the Degree Show. So finding the headspace to write has been difficult recently.
Then a petal from my beautiful flowers that were bought as a gift from a wonderful friend floated down next to me.
And then I was on that train, the whooshing in my stomach and tingling feeling all over as the idea explodes in my mind. A little baby curled up in the soft enclosure of the petal. Surrounded by nothing, a pure angelic image of a little life as it falls into our world.
Writing??? That can wait, when an idea strikes you have to run with it, never let it pass!
It was in the evening, light was limited and all my equipment was in the studio still except one camera and a 50mm lens…. so that was going to have to do! I quickly ran round the house to find the window that had the most light coming through and set up a mini studio with 2 pieces of white A4 paper.
Light was disappearing fast, I had to use a higher ISO than I would have liked so there was going to be grain in the image but I’d compensate for that later. I shot the petal from lots of different angles and a few different apertures to get varying DOF.
This composite was going to be a different process to my previous ones, normally I would photograph the background and then photograph the baby accordingly to fit with that. In this case I was going to use a baby from a shoot that I did last year, I knew which one the moment the petal fell next to me on the desk, I didn’t even bother to check before I photographed the petal… which in hindsight I probably should have? That’s the sensible thing to do but I maybe had 15 mins of light left so I wasn’t going to waste that time hunting for the photo.
I placed my mini studio at a 45 degree angle to the window light because this is generally how I light babies in the studio.
Once I was happy with the selection of images that I had taken the hunt was on for the baby image I had in mind:
Beautiful little Arabella!
I started the compositing at 7pm:
And finished at 11pm.
I used the same methods as in my previous composites, selecting parts of each of the images and adding them in as layers and painting the areas that I wanted with layer masks. I also used CURVES & HUE/SATURATION LAYERS, and the DODGE & BURN tools to enhance areas.
This image was created purely from the inspiration of a falling petal, there was no planning, no theory, no searching for a concept. It was the result of a visual that presented itself to me and all I did was bring it to life. These creations are always the most enjoyable, I almost feel like I have no part in them… they make themselves.
I completed the edit in an evening because I knew that if I wanted to get this made into wall art it would need to be ordered by morning. There is a company that I registered with that day – C41, based in Ellesmere Port and they said they would be able to turnaround within 5 days if I collected… so that was the plan.
In contrast to my series Creation, Growth & Nurture which were all very dark on Mounted Boards with dark edges this needed to be produced with a softer finish. I have chosen the 20×20″ Birch Circle from C41 which I think will work really nice.
It has been sent into production and will be ready for me to collect the day before the Degree Show… so I will be doing some last-minute hanging on thursday afternoon! 😀
When the time comes to order wall products to showcase your art that you have painstakingly worked on for weeks, it’s not something to take lightly. We are spoilt for choice with different types of paper, finishes, mounts, laminates, each with different qualities to enhance a wide range of images. A perfect image can be ruined with the wrong selection, matt finishes can reduce the detail which is no good when the detail is the important part, acrylics really stand out but are extremely reflective, no good if it’s placement near a window that will bleach out the image. So there is much to consider before you place your order.
After deciding what type of finish would work best for my Degree Show pieces, I ordered test prints. I can’t explain how important ordering test prints is, the last thing you want to do is spend hundreds of pounds only to find that when your products arrive that the colour isn’t right or it’s not sharp enough or you don’t like the finish. Something that would have been picked up if you’d had test prints done first.
I needed my final wall products to arrive before the 23rd May, so I made sure that I started the process ONE MONTH before that date. I thought that would be more than enough time to go through the process and receive in plenty time to hang them before the show.
WRONG, my first lot of test prints arrived after 5 days, and the quality was poor. The matte finish that they apply means a reduction in details up to 10% which is a lot! I then had to re-edit my images to compensate for that loss, I did that the same day and sent them off to have a second set of test prints done. They took another week to arrive, when they did I was happy so I asked them to go ahead and print.
We are now exactly 7 days away from the show and I have just received my finished products.
They are covered in horizontal lines, which I assumed was from the packaging as it lines up perfectly with the lines on the images.
Absolute nightmare and not something I can ignore, these are meant to advertise quality products to clients. The print company have apologised and insisted that it’s to do with the laminate process which they will fix and remake for delivery next Tuesday ….. WHICH IS 3 DAYS BEFORE THE SHOW!!! I am really disappointed that if it was done in production rather than by the packaging why it wasn’t picked up before it was sent out? But I can’t knock their customer service and quick turnaround for the remake. I am concerned though that if there is anything wrong with those then I am out of time to get replacements.
So this is just a little bit of advice for those ordering art that’s crucially important to have by a certain date, allow plenty of time, more than I did, because even if you think your images are perfect and good to go there’s so many things that can go wrong or slow down the process.
The remake of my wall art arrived today (Tuesday 22nd May – 3 Days prior to the Show)
They don’t have the horizontal marks like the first batch but they all have other varying marks on them. Can’t describe my utter disappointment:
They aren’t extremely noticeable but there are still marks, if these were products for clients I would not be able to deliver them.
After contacting the company they are making a third batch to be delivered tomorrow (2 days before the Show). Even though the damaged products have been a let down, I cannot fault the customer service in trying to resolve the issues.
Without the marks these products are absolutely gorgeous, I love the matte finish it’s exactly what I wanted for my images and I can’t wait to hang them.
Hopefully the 3rd batch will arrive today and be PERFECT! Fingers crossed!
Throughout this series of images there has been a prop, there is an infinite amount of props that I could have used but I wanted it to be minimal. By using as little as possible to tell the story, I find it adds an intensity to the image. Each prop in my images has symbolized something; the wooden shell was the mother’s womb and the flower was artificial surroundings a baby is born into. When it came to choosing the prop for this image I struggled coming up with ideas for what could represent the act of nurturing. In The Philosophy & Practices of Nurturing Parenting it is defined as:
Nurturing is a critical skill for all forms on the planet. For human beings, it is the most important characteristic for all of us to treat others and ourselves with respect, compassion caring and dignity.
Understanding the meaning of nurturing was one thing but finding a way to show it in a non-literal way was when I hit a wall. All I could think of was a baby with a parent or loved one?? Which would be a realistic representation not a symbolic one.
Referring back to Inspiration In Photography by Brooke Shaden, she discusses the use of props:
Do what makes you happy. Try thinking about what objects are near and dear to you. It might be a favourite necklace or rose that was pressed in a book years ago….. Whatever it is start with what you love
And like magic Brooke’s words opened a different door of thinking, I went to my home and as soon as I seen Charlie Bear I knew he was perfect. I don’t buy teddies, unless they are for my children but on our recent trip at Christmas to Chester Zoo I fell in love with him. I’ve never seen a teddy with such a beautiful face and although feeling rather stupid I couldn’t leave without him. I’m thinking of him more as a collectors item that can be kept in the family…. that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it! He can sit, move his head and has movable limbs which made him even more perfect for this image.
The plan for this image was to have the bear sat holding the baby, with his moveable limbs I hoped to be able to arrange him in a position that would allow this. I will use the same backdrop as in the first 2 images for consistency. Like before, I photographed the background plate first. I sat Charlie Bear in various positions that would allow room for a baby to be placed in and around him.
EQUIPMENT & CAMERA SETTINGS:
Tripod – Essential!! Everything needed to be in focus, I used a small aperture and a slow shutter speed to maximise the light.
LIGHTING: Jinbei EF 200 watt sunlight LED | 45 degree angle from the front upper left of the teddy
Since researching Anne Geddes for my Dissertation I realised this image was definitely a subconscious inspiration in the creation of ‘Nurture’.
Although different in colour and format to what I intended, I also wanted to show a connection, creating the illusion the bear is real, caring and nurturing the baby.
As I predicted, there was no way I was going to have 3 shoots in a row that went without a hitch! Baby Noah was great but he didn’t like being fiddled with once he was off to sleep. And the fiddling is key to perfecting the perfect shot!
EQUIPMENT & CAMERA SETTINGS:
Tripod – Essential!! BUT because Noah was already not settling for long I didn’t want to waste any time so I skipped setting up the tripod this time.
I also forgot to use a smaller aperture, because I was concentrating on just keeping him asleep it slipped my mind.
Lighting: Jinbei EF 200 watt sunlight LED | 45 degree angle from the front upper left of baby.
I planned to tuck some dark fluff under his head and hands which would make the composite easier but he was waking up every time I moved him. This meant I had to make the most of what I had, sometimes you can push your luck. If he had woken I might not have been able to lie him in this ‘head on hands’ position again.
The composite took many hours in Photoshop to get right, there was lots of time spent correcting areas pixel by pixel. If the baby was on a similar coloured fabric it would have been much easier. The fabric was almost white so this had to be removed completely, if it had been a different shade of brown changing the colour to match would have been easy to do by changing the HUE / SATURATION.
At this stage it was nearly finished, I then compared it next to my other images:
It was noticeably lighter, like with ‘Growth’ I warmed it up in Photoshop using curves and made the colour of the bears feet and baby’s hat more saturated then painted on a darker vignette.
Each image was individually designed adhering to the six main principles of design:
All having visually pleasing aesthetics that work together as a series / triptych.
The plan for my final image of this series was to symbolise the act of nurturing and I feel like I have achieved this here. Like the other images only one prop was used along with a single light drawing your eyes to the bear and baby. I consciously edited this so that it would match in colour and composition to the others.
We know the bear’s not real but the way it tends to the baby gives it life and draws you into a story where maybe it could be real. Some might look and think the baby is in the arms of a giant teddy, or others might know it’s not but wonder …. and that’s the great thing about creating composites or any art of any kind. If a viewer has to look twice then you’ve got their attention, something has resonated with them.
‘Art is about connecting with others, building communities of people who can relate to or be inspired to do something similar. Everyone has the ability to impact others with their work. You may not realise it or you may never realise it but it will happen’
Growth was the second image for my series, it is to represent the next stage after birth.
When planning this image I referred back to ‘Creating A Series’ in Brooke Shaden’s book Inspiration In Photography. Some key wording from this section in her book:
“Creating a series is relevant because it allows the photographer to tell a meaningful story in an organic way…….a series takes the viewer into a new world……each picture expands on the last and when images relate, the story grows”
In this series by Brooke there is a different agenda to each image, three parts to the story, although all photographed in the same place with the same bed sheet each image conveys a message or feeling that can relate to the next.
Whilst researching for my Dissertation – Composite Photography and how is it used by contemporary photographers? I included the work from Anne Geddes who is an award-winning pioneer of creative newborn photography. For example, never had babies been posed and edited to give the illusion of flying on the back of a bird before her success in the 1990s.
Like no photographer before her, her imagery singularly captures the beauty, purity and vulnerability of children embodying her deeply held belief that each and every child must be “protected, nurtured and loved”.
Developing the concept for ‘Grow’
Anne Geddes’ mantra and theory behind her baby images was Protected, Nurtured, Loved – this inspired the concept of my series.
When creating a series of images they need to form a story, my first image was about the otherworldly stage before birth. This next image is about what happens when a baby enters our world and the changes that take place.
As soon as a baby is born it is forced into a new world, before it was naked curled up in a warm, dark, comfy place surrounded by amniotic fluid. There it is fed and has everything it needs, soothed by the muffled sounds of its mothers movements.
‘Coming into the world initially means coming from another, leaving a first environment, a first dwelling in another. There the surroundings were liquid and warm, and the foetus lived in almost weightlessness, beyond the fact that it’s weight was carried by another. Giving birth to itself, the new human behaves like a demiurge and takes an incredible risk. It can do nothing else, but such an exploit will prey on its entire existence as an incentive to and an anguish of venturing to attempt the impossible: to live by oneself.’
To Be Born: Genesis of a new human being | Luce Irigaray
The transition from the womb into our modern world is what could be described as traumatic and brave. Removed from its safe place, it’s soon surrounded by lights, shapes, noises, prodded and poked, washed then dressed in clothes. This is a very different situation in comparison to ancient times, babies weren’t born into a sterile room. Many born in their humble homes or in fields as their mothers worked. Even for the higher class there was very natural apparatus used. As stated in an article Childbirth in the ancient worldit refers to information from the Roman writer Soranus, who lists the simple necessary items for childbirth:
‘For normal labour one must prepare beforehand: olive oil, warm water, warm fomentations, soft sea sponges, pieces of wool, strips of cloth, a pillow, things to smell, a midwife’s stool or chair, two beds and a proper room’
I planned to have a baby lying in a flower, still keeping the connection with nature but paying attention to the changes that happen when the baby enters our world. As it is touched and surrounded with man-made artificial items like clothes and hats.
At first I thought about using a real flower but decided on fake as a better representation of a hospital bed which is far from natural. I then did some research on different types of flowers to get an idea of what type might look the best with a baby inside.
The peony or the dahlia appealed to me, the centres of them could be flattened to allow a curled up baby inside so I set out to finding an artificial version similar.
The plan was to create a symbolic portrayal of a baby born into artificial surroundings. To do this I plan to photograph an artificial flower to create the background plate. Making sure there is enough space inside the flower for a baby to be added in Photoshop.
EQUIPMENT & CAMERA SETTINGS:
Tripod – Essential!! Everything needed to be in focus, I used a small aperture and a slow shutter speed to maximise the light.
LIGHTING: Jinbei EF 200 watt sunlight LED | Top left angle
I chose the one below, the foliage is real but the flower is fake. I tidied it up in Photoshop, removing any distracting marks and used curves to reduce the magenta from the background. It was then ready to add the baby inside:
The Sleep Gods were on my side again in this shoot, everything went to plan and I was able to photograph her exactly how I needed to in order to add her to the flower in Photoshop. Same process of set-up was used as for ‘Earth’, the pink wool that was inside the flower was the same as what was around her.
I didn’t struggle with the edit of this image like I did with ‘Creation’ it was pretty straight forward. I used two images of her because I liked the ribbon and her feet in one but I preferred her hand and mouth in another. When I think I’ve finished a composite I still keep tweaking it, every time I look at it for at least a week or so there’s always something that I’ve missed. Once it was finished I had it printed and realised when I placed it next to ‘Creation’ that the overall colour of ‘Grow’ had a cold tone in the background:
To fix this I warmed up the background and added one of my textures layers over the top and using a layer mask I painted it on where needed:
It was only a subtle change but enough to make them look more balanced next to each other:
Colour theory was an important consideration, I chose blush pinks because not only are they generally associated with girls, a controversial subject which I am unbiased about, but are referred to in many other ways which applied to this image:
Pink, a delicate color that means sweet, nice, playful, cute, romantic, charming, feminine, and tenderness, is associated with bubble gum, flowers, babies, little girls, cotton candy, and sweetness.
The color pink is the color of universal love of oneself and of others. Pink represents friendship, affection, harmony, inner peace, and approachability.
Pink is the official color for little girls and represents sugar and spice and everything nice. Pink is the sweet side of the color red. While the color red stirs up passion, aggression, and action, large amounts of the color pink can actually create physical weakness.
‘Growth’ was a much easier process than ‘Creation’, perhaps learning from what I did the first time round or just having a clearer idea of the final image from the start helped. Luckily I had another plain sailing shoot with a settled baby so there was nothing to trip me up along the way. I probably won’t be as lucky the third time round! I’m really pleased with the final edit and think that I achieved the second part of the series. A symbolic portrayal of a baby born into our world dressed and surrounded by the creations of man.
Since completing my website which lead to the creation of my new logo I was excited to start using it on promotional items. First in my list was business cards, here is one that I was using prior to opening the studio in 2016, these were made by Vistaprint:
When Kamila and I opened the studio in 2016 we had business cards made for the studio which had our own individual contact details on the back. These were made by Helloprint and are what I have been using up until now:
I ordered some samples from Vistaprint and Moo to compare the different types of card and finishes available:
I loved their Luxe range, 600gsm and with a coloured strip around the edge.
They also had a good range of different thickness cards and nice finishes like spot glossing.
The Moo Luxe range was definitely my favourite though, I wanted something really different to what I’d had before and chose the square format. Another option with MOO is that you can have 50 different designs, so you can upload 50 different images to have on the back of each card. This is something that I will look at doing when ordering my next batch. The reason I didn’t this time was because I didn’t have the time to carefully choose all the different images and then make sure that I had consent from all the clients for their images to be on promotional items. So I opted for a really simple, minimal design with just my website and social media name. All of my contact details are on my website so it makes sense to direct people through that, creating more online traffic which is good for seo.
They arrived within a week which was really good, MOO focuses on design and presentation and their packaging doesn’t disappoint:
I also ordered some labels for me to use on my packaging when I deliver products to clients:
Really really pleased with my purchases from MOO, they aren’t the cheapest but you get what you pay for!
I have entered my ‘Earth’ Image into the SWPP Monthly competition. I never enter into competitions but it seems to be a good way of improving your status. Lots of photographers class themselves as ‘Award Winning’ which is an attractive title to prospective clients. So I’ve been brave and submitted for the April 2018 Newborn Competition….. I’ll try and not cry if I don’t get anything ha.
***MAY 3RD UPDATE***
Oh woweeee I received a Highly Commended!! YEY!! 😀 It’s so exciting to receive an award !! Feeling really pleased about this, always been nervous about entering competitions and not bothered in the past but I will definitely enter more now.
Yesss…. back again to shoot the cover for the 3rd edition of KOOKIE!! This time it was a little different because unlike shooting my Soph for the 1st one and then Viv’s daughters friend for the second, Viv hadn’t met this girl before.
At first I thought Emily was going to take a while to relax, it’s a daunting situation being in a studio when you’re young and don’t know the people around you. BUT she was a natural! And her character burst out in front of the camera she was brilliant! Sophie took some behind the scenes footage for us, using my phone on a gimbal and I used that to put this little video together to promote the third edition:
She had loads of energy and that was exactly what we were looking for, we let her do her thing with the odd prompt now and then, a few outfit changes and we were done in an hour! Getting good at this now 😀
Here is a selection of some of the shots:
Currently waiting on their decision for me to do the final edit.